The Difference Between Dermatologist Tested and Dermatologist Recommended

Shopping for new skin care products can be stressful, especially if you have sensitive skin (and we all know stress can make skin problems even worse). So it’s natural to seek assistance via recommendations. Some will turn to influencers and celebrities that are known for their smooth skin, but those with sensitive skin or allergies are more likely to seek the assurance from a professional dermatologist.

Sometimes the labeling on skin care products promises dermatologists’ seal of approval. You’ll often see “Dermatologist recommended” or “Dermatologist tested” in bold letters on skin care. What’s the difference between the two, and do they actually mean anything? Are they just false claims to drive in more sales? Let’s dig a little deeper to clarify the differences between dermatologist tested and dermatologist recommended skin care and personal care products, and whether you can trust what is on the label.

Do dermatologists formulate skin care products?

Just to clarify, most products on the market are not formulated by dermatologists, and to be fair, that’s really not their job. Dermatologists are responsible for diagnosing skin conditions and problems, and finding an adequate treatment or solution. They’ll typically point you in the direction of the best skin care products for your skin type, but they rarely create their own skin care. You wouldn’t expect a dermatologist to develop the medications they may prescribe to you, right? Pharmaceutical scientists formulate medications, and for skin care and personal care products, cosmetic chemists put in the work.

Cosmetic chemists are responsible for the combination of ingredients in your skin, hair, and body care products, and they are well trained in what ingredients do, and what to combine and not combine. Your personal care routine is in good hands with cosmetic chemists, but that doesn’t mean that dermatologists can’t do their own research and testing or give their two cents on the products on the market.

What does dermatologist tested mean?

Dermatologist tested can mean a wide variety of things. It can either mean that a dermatologist was involved in the formulation process and approved of all ingredients, or it could just mean a dermatologist patch tested the product for allergic reactions on themself or others. It could’ve been tested on ten people who all have fragrance sensitivities in a lab setting, 1000 volunteers with different skin types and various allergies, patch testing done on various patients with no allergies, or a wealth of other possible samples.

There is no legal definition of this label, and it doesn’t give any specifics as to what tests were performed, who they were performed on, and what the results were. Even if there was a negative reaction, or the dermatologist was not fond of the results from a product, a brand could still choose to label their product as dermatologist tested because, well, it technically was.

What does dermatologist recommended mean?

While there is also no legal basis or definition for dermatologist recommended, it is an indicator that it is being recommended to patients or the consumers, and not just put to the test. 

You may see ads or articles where dermatologists recommend skin care products, but these are often paid for by the brand for promotional purposes. On the flip side, dermatologists may genuinely be recommending a brand to their patients on a regular basis if they believe it’s right for them. Both instances could yield the “dermatologist recommended” label, but one is clearly more genuine than the other.

Organizations like the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) and Mayo Clinic have streamlined dermatologist recommendations by creating databases based on specific allergies. The ACDS created their CAMP lists that create customized lists of personal care products based on patch testing done by an individual’s dermatologist, and Mayo Clinic developed SkinSafe, an online website accessible by anyone that “can tell you what's in a product and if it's safe for you, based on personal standards, specific allergens and physician recommendations.” 

Can we trust labels on cosmetic products?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits “misbranding” on cosmetic labeling, which means it cannot have labeling that is “false or misleading in any way.” As aforementioned, there aren’t any set in stone regulations for what it takes to be labeled as dermatologist recommended or dermatologist tested, and while the FDA(Food and Drug Administration) can request that companies provide “reasonable evidence” that their claims are correct, and can take action against cosmetics on the market that are mislabeled, they typically won’t unless something is repeatedly brought to their attention. 

So neither dermatologist recommended or dermatologist tested labeling are astutely verified by the FDA , but the truth is, very few claims on skin care labels are backed up by FDA regulations. The FDA doesn’t even require pre-market testing or approval of products or ingredient labels, unless it offers some kind of medical benefit like a sunscreen, anti-dandruff shampoo, or anti-perspirant deodorant.

The bigger, mass market personal care brands have closer eyes on them so if something goes wrong with a product, like if thousands or consumers break out into hives and complain, the FDA can step in, see what ingredient(s) caused the harm, check if it is mislabeled or leaves out ingredients, and it’ll likely to be pulled from shelves.However, with smaller brands, it could easily fly under the FDA’s radar. The best way to find out the validity of cosmetic labeling is to either ask your dermatologist, or do research on specific companies to see if they can back up their claims. However, companies don’t tend to be explicit about what their labeling claims actually mean.

How we back up our claims

Our goal at Cleure is to always be honest and transparent with our customers, especially when it comes to our labels.

Cleure products boast the “Dermatologist Recommended” label, but we back it up with over twenty years of distributing our products to dermatologists and allergists to sample amongst themselves and their patients. We often hear from our customers that they got the recommendation to try our products and a sample from their dermatologist based on their personal needs.

All of our products are regularly recommended on the ACDS (American Contact Dermatitis Society) CAMP lists, by Mayo Clinic/Skin Safe, and by Duke Dermatology. Many other dermatologists around the country try samples of our products and recommend them to their patients who have allergies or intolerances to common personal care products on the market because the hypoallergenic, fragrance free formulas we offer are free of common irritants and less likely to exacerbate medical conditions like perioral dermatitis, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis.

That being said, it’s impossible to create a product that will work for everyone’s skin, so we always recommend checking with your own dermatologist, doctor, or allergist, and performing a self patch test with any new products.

1 comment

Thanks for helpful info. I am enjoying your products. I have given away countless tubes of lip balm!
Stay well,
Mary Jane Armstrong
Ontario, Canada

Mary Jane Armstrong May 05, 2021

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